|Volume 14, Issue 7||
Affordable Housing project for vacant Murray-Cornell lot
In 2008, Washington County bought the previously commercial properties to facilitate the widening of the intersection. The former property owner was required to undertake a lengthy “remediation” of the land, because of chemicals from a dry cleaning business that had leaked into the soil. Once the DEQ certified that “No Further Action” was needed, in December 2012, the county attempted to auction the approximately ¾ acre that remained after the intersection work. A high price tag for the small lot, with extremely limited access, resulted in no bids.
Finally, late in 2014, the county hired consultant John Southgate to manage a process to determine the best use of the corner. He has been involved in several downtown revitalization projects around the region. He wrote up a “Request for Expressions of Interest,” which is somewhat less formal than an RFP (Request for Proposals) that was issued in August 2015. Four proposals were received, including two food-cart projects, a conventional strip mall, and an affordable housing project.
In October, Washington County created an evaluation team to hear the proposals. I was invited to represent the community, along with Chuck Richards of Sunset Athletic Club. Other team members were County Commissioner Greg Malinowski, County Chair Andy Duyck, Deputy County Administrator Rob Massar, Stephen Roberts, Special Projects Coordinator for county Land Use and Transportation (LUT), and LUT Director Andrew Singelakis, along with Southgate.
After hearing presentations from the four groups, the team selected two projects to move forward: Valerie Hunter’s VH Development, which built the wildly successful Happy Valley Station food cart concept; and Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) which has built and is in the process of building several low-income housing developments, including The Barcelona at Beaverton, and The Watershed at Hillsdale.
In March of this year, Hunter pulled out of the competition, because the property was too small for the project that she wanted to build. Since then, the county has been working with CPAH to determine how to move forward with their proposal. They will require both subsidies and fee waivers from the county, and they will need to secure substantial funding from Federal, State and other sources.
Massar says, “The Board of Commissioners will consider an exclusive negotiation agreement with CPAH at their July 19 meeting. The agreement would be for an initial 180-day period, with possible extensions so they may do their due diligence and continue to put their funding in place.” Massar estimates that it may take up to a year before a final agreement is in place. After that, designs will be finalized and the permitting process will begin.
We’ll cover more details about CPAH and their plans in future issues. I’ve been waiting a long time to share the story of the quest for the best use of this important corner of Cedar Mill, and I look forward to covering the progress as it unfolds. I still love the idea of a food cart installation: we’ll just have to find another spot!
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Portland, Oregon 97291